SC junks disbarment case vs Ombudsman

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 28) — The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Tuesday the disbarment complaint filed against the Ombudsman because of a flaw in logic.

Supreme Court Spokesperson Theodore Te said a possible decision to disbar the Ombudsman cannot be applied in the future after she steps down from office -- the main point in the case filed by former Manila councilor and losing senatorial candidate Gregor Belgica.

According to his complaint, Belgica wanted a possible disbarment ruling on Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales be applied only after she steps down from office in 2018. That means a decision can be made on the case and its application withheld at some future date.

Belgica accused the Ombudsman of violating her oath as lawyer after clearing former President Benigno Aquino III in the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) case on March 7. Aquino appointed Morales in 2011.

But the high court said Belgica's logic is problematic.

"This logic that the Ombudsman may be charged with disbarment during her incumbency but that the penalty may only be imposed after her term ends is faulty and clearly contravenes the established principle that the Ombudsman, who may only be removed from office by impeachment cannot be charged with disbarment during her incumbency," Te said.

Belgica said he is preparing an impeachment complaint against Morales, which he will file once the Congress resumes in May 2.

In a Facebook post, Belgica thanked the court for hearing the case, and called for the prosecution of possible criminal liabilities of other former officials involved in the DAP as well as the pork barrel system, both of which were declared as unconstitutional.

"We thank the court for hearing the case. We will follow it and move for impeachment. All the best and my respects to the Ombudsman and the Supreme Court who also ruled unanimously that DAP is unconstitutional and that the authors have criminal and administrative liabilities.

"We also reiterate the order of the Supreme Court in the Belgica Ruling for all prosecutorial organs of government to investigate and prosecute for possible criminal liabilities all who abused the Pork Barrel system (including DAP)," Belgica said.

Former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was charged over the P72-billion DAP case for usurpation of legislative powers.